EXCEPT FOR a few pounds of figs from a friend's tree and several raspberries that managed to miss our garden's blight, our harvesting is done in food stores. Still we don't like to let a season pass without marking it with a few opinions. So we have browsed among this year's crops of new products and picked a few that pleases us:
Unlike oysters, hot dogs and hamburgers are never out of season. So we are glad to have something sound for snadwiching them. Columbia Union Bakery now makes hot dog and hamburger rolls of whole wheat, sprouted wheat or oatmean, with no preservatives. They are firm enough to stand up to meat juices, full-flavored enough to back up a spicy hot dot, with enough chew that they don't collapse into mush. They sell for about $1 a package, and are available at most supermarkets.
Tomato, over the centuries, has been back and forth across the Atlantic to seek favor. Now, with most of the year offering only pale tomato facsimiles, we turn to Italy again. Sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in olive oil, were the flashy immigrants in posh food stores last year, so much so that the supplies ran out. Now Suzanne's has them again, and we would be surprised if other stores didn't follow. Their concentrated tomato flavor would compensate for winter's missing tomato-ness in recipes, but given their price -- $7.20 for 10 ounces -- and their deilciousness as-is or layered on bread, they are better as a flavoring.
This being a city of people from everywher else, Made in America, an American Crafts shop in K Street's Esplanade Mall, has been seeking the foods people miss from their home countries. We aren't sure why some of them would be missed: Napa Valley wine jellies didn't taste different enough from Welch's to be worth the trouble, and Arizona prickly pear jelly was but a hint of that fruit's glory. But we saw through to the finish a bag of California's Granny Goose potato chips and wished we had two; and Scranto, Pa's Black Diamonds licorice -- looking like coal and packed with a hammer -- may have seemed just a gimmick at first but tasted like grand stuff, licorice that is not cloying but is plenty strong. What are the shop's most evocative foods? Hang around Made in America and you'll soon see how emotional people can get over a long lost barbecue sauce.
Anybody would love to get a box of Bill Blass chocolates; in fact, anybody would would love to get a Bill Blass chocolate box even without the chocolates. It is "brushed silver," with gold script and silvery layers inside that are utterly and discreetly elegant. The famous initials are stamped on each foil layer and on some of the chocolates. Bravo for the packaging. And ho-hum for the chocolates themselves. We found them, as we find the Godiva chocolates by whom they are made, too sweet. fThey were neither as buttery nor as creamy as we like our fillings and our milk chocolates, nor aas intense as we expect or dark chocolates. We do admit, however, a developing fondness for one called a Raspberry Noyea, with raspberries, applesauce and pecans; and for Orange Meltaways, with Seville organe peel and Grand Marnier. In any case, they look like chocolates to put on a chain and wear around your neck, or, as one wandering-by taster put it, "Designer chocolates to wear with your designer jeans."